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Josephs Legende

Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
DG 463 493-2  [63'54"]

The anticipation of something completely new by Strauss is quickly dashed by a feeling that one has heard it all before. This Diaghilev commission was soured and frustrated by the break with Nijinsky and the outbreak of war soon after the 1914 Paris premiere. There was a 1947 reduced orchestration, half length Symphonic Fragment, but it was, finally, rewarding to hear this complete version; sumptuous music, sumptuously recorded in Dresden by Guiseppe Sinopoli for Deutsche Grammophon, September 1999.

This is Strauss the master craftsman, deploying his well-honed skills with a huge orchestra. There are numerous echoes of Strauss favourites in a scenario described in detail for each of the 28 tracks, including dances for Joseph and for women and slave girls. There are dramatic episodes involving Joseph's seduction by Potiphar's faithless wife, who finally strangles herself as an Archangel rescues Joseph from incipient doom in 'a brazier filled with red-hot embers'.

As in the case of Beethoven's Christus am Ölberge, (q.v.) it is good to hear music which, familiar though it sounds overall, is not so embedded in listening experience that you know exactly what is coming the first time you play the CD. Not a masterpiece, but worth collecting by Strauss-buffs.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also reviews by Colin Andrson and Colin Clarke who were more impressed.

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